wo weeks before Christmas, 1959, a
Formula 1 newcomer from New Zealand
was surprised to find himself winning the
Grand Prix of the United States.
Held on the bumpy old airport course
at Sebring, Fla., it was North America’s
first GP; likewise, it was the first F1 victory
for Bruce Leslie McLaren. He was just 22,
in only his ninth such race. As the Cooper
team’s understudy, he expected merely to
follow team leader Jack Brabham under
the flag — until “Black Jack” ran out of gas.
When we look back across a wide span
of years, taking in the unfolding of events
all in a glance, it’s easy to tell ourselves
that we see patterns and purpose, or to
point at certain incidents and proclaim,
“There! That’s where it all began.”
Thus we may well imagine a young Kiwi
from the far side of the globe murmuring,
“Coo! This America’s all right. Winning
doesn’t seem that hard, and the money’s
good. Chap could build a future here.”
Maybe such a thought did flit through
McLaren’s mind, who can say? And having
a USGP credit on his résumé was no
handicap in courting stateside sponsors.
In any case, he did come back to the U.S.
again and again, and he and the
organization he put together did win so
many races here (and elsewhere, of
course) that we still know his name today.
But it’s not likely that Bruce plotted out
that whole storyline during his flight
home for Christmas ’ 59.
Drivers BrUCe MClaren, Denn Y HUlMe
Wins 5 (MClaren 2; HUlMe 3)
CH’sHip positions MClaren 1st; HUlMe 2nD
• First of the great Group 7 Can-Am McLarens, the simple, light
M6A was built around a twin-pontoon, steel and aluminum tub.
• 358.9cu.in. ( 5.9-liter) Chevy V8 built at McLaren’s UK base by
American Gary Knutson gave approx. 525hp at 7,000rpm.
• The taller Denny Hulme requested that his chassis be built
longer (93in. wheelbase, compared with Bruce’s 91in.).
“McLaren’s standing as a
driver was forged in F1, but it
was North American sports
car racing that established
him as a constructor”